Grain-Free Brain Granola

Dr. Aaron Hartman

February 7, 2022


    Let’s talk about my family’s Great Grain-Free Brain Granola recipe and all of its many benefits for your brain.

    The Why Behind the Ingredients

    Nuts & Seeds

    First, we focus on using a base of nuts, which have so many benefits. Almonds are a great source for omega-3’s, as well as trace minerals. Why are nuts so healthy? Let’s think about it. They’re a miniature tree, in a knot or seed. All the things needed for that miniature tree to survive is in that nut or seed. Walnuts have large amounts of plant chemicals that are known to help improve brain function. And the alpha-linoleic acid in nuts is the primary antioxidant or protectant for our cell membranes. So actually, eating nuts helps protect your brain and gives your brain essential nutrients.

    Why are nuts so healthy? Let’s think about it. They’re a miniature tree, in a knot or seed. All the things needed for that miniature tree to survive is in that nut or seed.

    Nuts like pecans have phytochemicals that help feed the good bacteria in your gut to make your gut healthy. There are also trace minerals that our bodies need for health and wellness: minerals like magnesium and potassium, but especially ultra trace minerals like molybdenum, strontium, cadmium, and cobalt. Yes, you heard me right – cobalt. You actually need a little bit of cobalt and methylcobalamin (vitamin B12) for your cells to function properly.

    Next, we include seeds like sunflower, chia, and flax. Sunflower seeds are THE complete food. They have large amounts of essential omega-3’s and trace minerals. You literally could live off of sunflower seeds by themselves, though you probably wouldn’t want to. Flax and chia seeds are another great source of omega-3’s and a super source of fiber. So mixing almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower and chia or flax seeds together gives us this balance of omega-3’s and 6’s that your body needs. It also provides trace minerals that you crave as well as fiber and protein.

    Healthy Fats

    Next up in our granola are more healthy fats. Coconut flakes are a source of saturated fat, which helps balance out the omega-3’s and 6’s. Extra virgin olive oil acts as an antioxidant to help preserve the granola and contains polyphenols, which feed your healthy gut bacteria. Olive oil has been shown to lower your risk for heart attacks and strokes, improve brain function, and help with gut inflammation.


    Cinnamon is known to improve insulin sensitivity, and there are actually medical forms of cinnamon that are used to help diabetics with insulin sensitivity. Sea salt is used for flavoring and for the trace minerals that occur in these natural forms of salt. I also like nutmeg just because it’s so delicious.


    Finally we come to the sweeteners: raw honey and maple syrup. Each teaspoon of raw honey contains about 5 billion colony-forming units of natural probiotics. Even though it’s a sugar, raw honey also helps with gut health and the microbiome. Maple syrup, which is a concentration of the sap from maple trees, is sweet with sugar but also has trace minerals that the maple tree pulls up from the ground to bring to the leaves.

    So as you can see, what on the surface seems like a simple granola, is actually a super-nutritious food that helps your gut bacteria, provides protein, helps regulate sugar levels, and supports healthy brain function.

    Ultimately, as a dad, my big focus is on growing good brains. I tell patients this all the time. We make this granola for our kids’ brains. This is a Great Brain Granola!

    Ultimately, as a dad, my big focus is on growing good brains.


    Sometimes I will cheat a little bit because my kids have crazy appetites. I’ll add in some sprouted oats, which is also in the recipe. They just help as a filler to make the granola last a little longer. I try not to do it too often, but the reality is that the above ingredients are expensive and adding in some oats helps make it last a little longer. We do use organic, non-glyphosate-sprayed, sprouted oats.

    Then we mix it together and let it sit overnight.

    Apple cider vinegar and the salt allow the natural bacteria on the nuts to actually break down some of the phytates (or phytic acid – sometimes referred to as lectins), in the nuts and seeds to make them more digestible. Then when it sits in the dehydrator oven, the heat actually helps break down the nut a little bit to make it even easier to digest.

    As a side note, if you don’t have a dehydrator, sometimes I’ll just toast the nuts instead of soaking them to give them a nice crispy flavor. But you do lose some of the nutritional value when you cook them like this.

    In the recipe itself, I have included some ranges for the ingredients to allow you to flavor it to your tastes. Over time, I’ve fine-tuned our granola recipe, doubled it, and responded to what my kids like and don’t like to create something that’s great for our family. I hope you’ll do the same with yours.

    That’s a summary of my Great Grain-Free Brain Granola recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

    The Recipe

    Dr. Hartman’s Grain-Free Brain Granola

    This recipe can be doubled to create a larger serving. Because there are no preservatives in it, plan on eating it in 2-3 weeks after making it. I sometimes change the ratios based on my family’s preferences. Use this recipe as a base and modify the quantities depending on what your family likes. 


    • ½-¾ cups extra virgin olive oil (or ½-¾ cups melted coconut oil depending on flavor preferences)
    • 1 tbsp cinnamon
    • ¼-½ cups maple syrup (depending on preference)
    • ¼-½ cups of raw honey  (to taste)
    • ~1 tsp of nutmeg (to taste)
    • 2-3 tsp of sea salt
    • 4 cups almonds (raw unpasteurized or steam pasteurized)
    • 2 cups pecans (raw unpasteurized)
    • 2 cups walnuts (raw unpasteurized)
    • ½-¾ cups of sunflower seeds (depending on preference)
    • ½-¾ cups flax/chia seeds (depending on preference)
    • 2 cups coconut flakes
    • 1 tsp Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
    • Optional Oats: To make more servings so that your granola goes further, you may add in 4 cups of sprouted oats. If you choose to add in oats, of course, it will not be a grain-free recipe. See note in Step 3.


    1. Mix all the nuts and seed ingredients together in a glass bowl and fill with filtered water to just covering the nuts. Add Bragg’s apple cider vinegar and salt. Let soak overnight 12-24 hours, mixing several times during the soaking period. 
    2. Grind up the mixture in a food processor and put in a large metal bowl.
    3. If adding oats, add in this step. Mix in extra virgin olive oil then add in maple syrup and honey. You can use ¾ cup maple syrup only if you prefer not to use honey. Mix thoroughly.
    4. Add in cinnamon powder and (optional) nutmeg. Mix thoroughly.
    5. Add in coconut flakes and mix.
    6. Spread contents on pans or plates and put into a dehydrator to dry for 24-48 hours until crispy. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can put in metal or glass pans and put in oven on low (200F). If using an oven, mix often to prevent burning.
    7. Once dried, put in a sealed container and store in a cool, dark area (out of reach because it may disappear fast!).

    Download the Recipe

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